Grieving Chronic Illness
Grief is an interesting emotion that can be felt for any number of reasons. To most people, grief is associated with the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a marriage or relationship. Most wouldn’t think that one would grieve what they’ve had to give up. Or the loss of a life once lived. But that’s exactly what I think of when I think of grief. I think about the fact that I am mourning the life I once lived and the goals I once had. The life I had before Chronic illness rocked my life.
Grief is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as, "a cause of such suffering, ie life's joys and griefs." By that definition alone it is clear that grief goes beyond the loss of a loved one or relationship. One can feel grief for any number of reasons from the life once lived, to the loss of a job or career, or even the loss of a friendship. As you may have noticed there is a common theme here, loss. Grief is about loss, and anyone dealing with any kind of loss. That being said Chronic illness causes a lot of loss. For example losing the freedom you once had because you are unable to go out in public by yourself. Or you might lose the independence you once had as you are no longer able to do things on your own. While others might lose their sense of identity, because all the things they once loved and have now lost. Or the loss of the things that once defined them that have been lost due to their chronic illness.
For me personally, I have grieved the loss of many relationships due to my illness. Both of the romantic and of the friend variety. I have grieved the loss of my career and the life I once had. While my life was never over the top crazy and fun, it was a life I enjoyed. Ten years ago I was able to work full-time doing what I loved. I was able to work and go to school to work toward the ultimate goal of finishing my Masters in Nursing Education. I never thought twice if someone invited me to do something and I just did it. No, I didn’t always say yes. But I never had to cancel plans like I do now. I also had the freedom to be able to do pretty much whatever and whenever I chose to. I didn’t have to plan around headaches, or flares, drs appt or treatment schedules. I pretty much did what I wanted when I wanted. But in 2012 that all changed.
In 2012, as many of you probably know, I fell ill and never really got better. Over the course of several months I was diagnosed with not one, but FOUR chronic conditions. One in and of itself is life changing, four is more than most could handle. Since that time my life has changed DRASTICALLY, causing me to grieve many losses. Like I’ve mentioned before, the loss of my career, and the loss of being able to pursue my educational goals was a hard one to swallow. I had worked so hard to get to where I was career wise, only to have to give it up. The loss of my life’s hopes and dreams was another one that was very hard to swallow. You see, I knew at a young age that my calling was to be a mom. I knew I wanted kids and I even had a list of names that I loved. But sadly, thanks to my chronic conditions that is not a goal I will likely ever achieve, at least not naturally.
The hardest loss for me has been the loss of relationships. It’s been hard to understand why people would give up on me and our relationship just because I got sick. I will never understand how someone can give up on a relationship that has spanned so many years just because of an illness. But I guess some people just can’t hang. I know things changed after I got sick, but at my core I am still the same person now that I was prior to all the health issues. Over the last seven years I have grieved the loss of many relationships. The most difficult being the loss of a person who was my ride or die. A person who I thought would be the most understanding. But instead of sticking it out and seeing it through she chose to walk away because SHE couldn’t handle it. She took the easy way out and left when I didn’t have the choice to do the same. I couldn’t walk away from what was happening so instead I had to face the fact that my illness took yet another person from me.
Grief is very personal and different for every person. Just because you grieve differently than Sammie Joe, it doesn’t make either of you wrong. No matter what anyone says there is no right or wrong way or reason to grieve. Any loss you experience may cause you to grieve and THAT'S OKAY! What one person feels as a loss isn’t always going to match up with anyone else’s feelings of loss. So no one should ever judge another person on the way or reason they grieve.
I guess the message I want to get across is that grief can be felt by anyone for any reason. Grief isn’t just for the loss of a marriage or the loss of a life. While many do experience grief for those reasons, they are not the only reason to grieve. Anytime you have to give up something without much choice in the matter you may grieve that loss. Whether it be the loss of a life once lived or the loss of a career, your grief is still valid. Please do not ever let anyone tell you that you aren’t grieving “right,” or that you shouldn’t be grieving because it’s such a personal feeling. Grief is a part of life and can happen for any reason.